With Apple designing products capable of being operated by newborns, computing has become exponentially simpler. Printers, on the other hand, have followed an inverse trajectory, demanding advanced degrees in physics to qualify users to even open the box.
This is especially the case in higher-end dedicated photo printers, which, although they’re capable of producing professional-standard images, demand an understanding of complex printing techniques, not to mention delving into the nightmare world of colour management.
But Epson’s latest semi-pro photo printer, the R3000, does what it can to reverse this trend.
Chief among its efforts is the inclusion of wireless printing. Emblazoned on the box are the words ‘Unparalleled Connectivity’, boasting built-in Wi-Fi and Ethernet capabilities. But, as anyone who’s ever wrestled with network settings will know, connectivity can often be as much of a curse as it is a blessing.
However, I’m pleased to report that in the R3000’s case, connectivity is indeed a breeze. The Epson’s set-up assistant effortlessly walked me through a surprisingly simple process that, incredibly, connected my MacBook Pro to the printer immediately. Admittedly, drivers were nowhere to be found, but this is often the case
While the R3000 will connect to your iPad or iPhone via a third-party app, unfortunately it’s not yet AirPrint compatible. This isn’t a make-or-break exclusion, but it’s a feature many users might have wanted.
Another point scored by the Epson is the speed with which it whips out prints, thanks to a newly-developed nine-colour, eight-channel ‘MicroPiezo’ print head that the company says is the fastest in its class. They’re not kidding: to create an edge-to-edge, full-colour A3 print, the R3000 managed to clock in at well under five minutes, while an A4 takes two. And to think we used to wait days to pick up pictures from the chemist.
Likewise, the R3000 seems to perform well in terms of ink usage; Epson’s designed the cartridges to be 2.3 times larger than those in previous models. But be warned; printing full-colour A3 does use buckets of ink (which costs).
Of course, all of these modern conveniences and time-saving technologies would count for nothing if it would’ve looked better had you done it on the office photocopier.
Across a number of different paper types, both matte and high-gloss, using a variety of images, the R3000 produced consistently stunning results.
For starters, blacks are not browns, or blues, or greys: they’re pitch, flat black. This provides a satisfying degree of contrast and depth in images, one that’s rarely seen in printers at this price-point. Four separate black ink cartridges – matte black, photo black, light black and light light black –¬ allow the printer to produce fantastic monochromes with excellent tonal range and gradation.
Colours represent magnificently, without the slightest evidence of bleed (an achievement made possible by tiny ink droplet sizes at two picolitres each).
The inclusion of ‘UltraChrome K3 Ink,’ which includes two separate magenta cartridges, make for rich tones, with metallic-looking blues, subtle variations on red and convincing skin tones.
However, colour management is, of course, as much of an art as photography itself. I found that letting the printer handle colour management resulted in slightly cooler images than suited my preference, but after some fiddling with profiles she was apples.
Clarity and detail is also wonderful – blurring, artefacts, individual dots – are nowhere to be found.
Macworld Australia’s buying advice: The Epson Stylus R3000 is a printer of the highest standard that simplifies – as much as humanly possible – making professional quality prints. Exceptionally fast without sacrificing quality, photographers everywhere will want one of these babies.